Jack swaggered along the docks as he made his way towards his beloved Pearl.
The plan to gather one hundred souls was completely shot, which meant Jack now had to move quickly. He needed to find that chest and he needed to find it now. It was the only option left now if he wanted to save himself from Davy Jones's wrath.
"Captain Sparrow?" A voice, vaguely familiar, called from behind.
Jack glanced back to see a young man, possibly a recent ex-sailor given the boy's rather smart dress, coming up.
He thought he saw another smartly-dressed boy and a much filthier, drunk male further behind the boy who had addressed him, but Jack barely gave any of them a glance as he turned back to the front.
"Come to join me crew, lad?" He called carelessly over his shoulder. "Welcome aboard."
"I'm here to find the man I love." The young man declared, and Jack froze for a moment with his foot almost on the gangplank leading up to the Pearl.
Well, that wasn't something one heard every day – particularly from a boy.
"I'm deeply flattered, son, but my first and only love is the sea." Jack replied uncomfortably while gesturing at Gibbs, who had just come down to greet his captain, to get the strange lad away from him.
There was the sound of retching from behind – probably the dirty drunkard, who had looked like he was barely standing – before another, very familiar voice commented dryly: "She meant William Turner, Captain Sparrow."
Jack froze for a second time, but for very different reasons this time; and he turned slowly to face the newcomers, his eyes going passed Elizabeth despite the fact that she was closer and meeting the blue orbs that had plagued him every time he looked to the sea for the last few months.
It was almost sinful the way her name rolled off his tongue and Annalise found herself fighting a shiver as she stared back into those deep, dark brown eyes that had followed her every thought since the day she had let him go.
She had meant it to be strong and firm; instead, his name came out in a whispered breath.
His mouth was suddenly dry and Jack Sparrow found himself for once actually speechless. His normally smooth words seemed to fail him; his usual sarcastic comments seemed to stick in his throat but his true feelings were heavy on his tongue. Jack Sparrow rarely ever spoke what was truly on his mind let alone what went on in his heart. And to try do so now seemed impossible; so all he could do was stare with his mouth ajar at the one woman he seemed unable to forget.
"I don't mean to interrupt." Elizabeth interjected apologetically after a beat during which neither Annalise nor Jack could find anything to say. "But-"
But Jack recovered when Elizabeth spoke, her voice breaking the spell that tied him to the younger woman.
Focusing his attention instead on the blonde Swann sister, he found himself calming and easily slipping back into his usual persona as he announced, interrupting Elizabeth: "You know, Elizabeth, these clothes do not flatter you at all."
He gestured at said lady's male attire as he continued: "It should be a dress or nothing. I happen to have no dress in my cabin-"
He gestured towards his ship next while Annalise looked at him incredulously. Was this really how he was going to come at them?
'Of course it is.' She thought sourly and with more than a hint of disappointed bitterness. 'He's Captain Jack Sparrow.'
Elizabeth had a mixed look of disgust and similar exasperation on her face as she cut across Jack's snarky comments off as he had cut her off.
Jack paused at her severe tone, and Elizabeth rushed out: "I know Will came to find you, where is he?"
Jack cocked a brow and Elizabeth tried her best not to fidget - she was uncomfortable enough as it was.
She knew Annalise had waited so long to see Jack again, but she had no patience to let Jack prattle. Elizabeth was too desperate to find out if Will was all right to hold herself in check, and the situation was already less than ideal with Jack's signature and irritating brazenness. His attitude was not what she needed right now; especially when she could almost feel the disappointed resignation radiating off her sister.
Jack meanwhile thought how it was almost comical to see how similar Will and Elizabeth were; at least, it would be funny if it weren't also rather pathetic, in his humble opinion. The two lovers' feelings for one another made them idiots and vulnerable to easy manipulation – another reason Jack had long sworn off serious relationships.
Trying to keep that in mind (and trying not to let his eyes wander over to the brunette who was able to make him lose his composure far more than Jack liked) Jack addressed Elizabeth with insincere apology.
"Lass, I am truly unhappy to have to tell you this, but through an unfortunate and entirely unforeseeable series of circumstances that had nothing whatsoever to do with me, poor Will has been press-ganged into Davy Jones's crew."
"Davy Jones?" Elizabeth repeated with a frown, not recognizing the name.
"'Nothing' to do with you?" Annalise asked at the same time, an identical frown marring her face as she gaze Jack a clearly skeptical look.
Jack's eyes flickered almost unwillingly over to Annalise, but he managed to keep his confident swagger as he answered: "You wound me. Is it so hard to believe I could be innocent, love?"
Almost instantly, Jack winced – thankfully, he managed to keep his reaction internal.
Annalise and Elizabeth also stiffened at the affectionate term, and the latter's eyes narrowed protectively.
But it was Norrington who broke the awkwardness as he staggered over, almost toppling over his own feet as he sneered at Jack: "You wouldn't know innocence if it was staring you in the face."
Jack's eyes unwittingly flickered over to Annalise, almost too fast to be seen.
But his eyes were drawn back to Norrington as the man scoffed: "And really? 'Davy Jones'. The Captain of the Flying Dutchman?"
"You know him?" Annalise asked in surprise, and Norrington sniffed: "'He' is a myth of the sea – an old wives' tale."
"So he's lying?" Elizabeth demanded, and Jack said indignantly: "Of course not."
"Of course he is." Norrington rebuffed, almost falling over as he did.
It was only by catching Annalise's shoulder at the last minute that Norrington managed to stay upright; Annalise however staggered slightly under the larger man's sudden weight. She barely managed to stay upright, while Jack's eyes narrowed on Norrington's dirty hand clasped casually on Annalise's shoulder.
Eyeing the ex-Commodore, Jack blurted the first insulting thing he could think of.
"You look bloody awful, what are you doing here?"
So it wasn't his best line. Jack knew even before Annalise shot him an incredulous look, but Norrington himself took it rather well as he answered dryly: "You hired me. I can't help it, if your standards are lax."
"You smell funny." Jack retorted childishly, and Elizabeth butted in impatiently: "Jack!"
Jack turned his attention back on the blonde again in surprise and Elizabeth sighed.
Hanging her head, she glanced up at Jack from under her lashes as she pleaded: "All I want is to find Will."
Jack almost rolled his eyes – there was no surprise there.
But he paused as another thought occurred to him and he asked Elizabeth suddenly: "Are you certain? Is that what you really want most?"
Both sisters frowned at Jack's sudden change in attitude, but Elizabeth answered as though it were obvious: "Of course."
Jack raised a brow and Annalise eyed his overly theatrical skepticism with her own wariness as Jack noted a little too casually, "Because I would think, you'd want to find a way to save Will most."
"And you'd have a way of doing that?" Elizabeth asked, raising her own brow as she clearly looked Jack up and down in disbelief.
"Well, there is a chest." He began, and Annalise couldn't help (even if she had feelings for the pirate) but agree with Norrington as the former commodore muttered: "Oh, dear."
"A chest of unknown size and origin." Jack continued, ignoring Norrington.
"Which contains what?" Annalise asked uneasily. The last chest they had encountered together had been filled with cursed Aztech gold and they had all (Norrington included) ended up almost dying as they fought against undead pirates.
"The still beating heart of Davy Jones."
Annalise looked at the speaker in surprise, her incredulity only increasing as she recognized Pintel. He was carrying a crate up the plank and onto the Pearl, Ragetti helping him out - and as the two sisters watched, Ragetti helpfully imitated a still beating heart in his hand as he passed them.
'Weren't they trying to kill us last time?' Annalise wondered, before her eyes and attention was drawn back to Jack as he finished: "And whoever possesses that chest, possesses the leverage to command Jones to do whatever it is he or she wants. Including saving brave William from his grim fate."
Elizabeth was now staring at Jack in awe, while Annalise was filled with unease. Jack was never this perfectly casual unless he was trying to get something out of someone - and it seemed his current target was her sister.
'What is he aiming for?' Annalise wondered. 'Jack… what is it you seek? What is it you are hoping to gain here?'
This had certainly not been the reunion Annalise had been hoping for, or even expecting; though that made sense given that apparently nothing ever went the way one was expecting with Jack Sparrow.
Annalise pursed her lips, while Norrington turned to Elizabeth as he asked incredulously: "You don't actually believe him, do you?"
But Annalise could see from her sister's face that she did. No surprise - Elizabeth was easily swayed over where Will was involved. Yet, Annalise also knew as she watched Jack that he wasn't lying; not entirely. She was still certain he was manipulating Elizabeth somehow, but she didn't doubt the chest existed.
If an island with cursed Aztech gold and undead pirates existed, then who was to say that an undead pirate captain who sailed from the very depths of the ocean and his chest containing his heart didn't exist?
Not to mention, Beckett had mentioned a chest - he had said he wanted Jack's compass for it. But far from giving her relief, knowing there was truth to Jack's words only served to increase her sense of foreboding - the sense that they were tangling themselves into an intricate web of lies and deceit from which they might not be able to extract themselves.
So it was with concern that Annalise cautioned her sister: "Lizzy-"
"How do we find it?"
Elizabeth gave her sister a brief, apologetic look, but it was clear she was desperate to find Will. She would deal with any consequences.
Annalise sighed, but accepted that decision - for now - while Jack grinned, clearly triumphant.
"With this." He announced as he held up his compass. "My compass… is unique."
"Unique, here, having the meaning of broken." Norrington snorted, still very much skeptical of pretty much anything that came out of Jack's mouth - with good reason.
But Annalise knew Jack better, and she was aware he spoke more truth than met the eye; the problem was that he also weaved the truth into easy lies to suit his purpose.
Jack meanwhile looked to the other man, studiously not making eye contact with Annaliese, and he agreed: "True enough."
Norrington suddenly moved away, pushing off Annalise to go throw up some more over the edge of the docks; but she barely paid him any attention as Jack continued, looking at Elizabeth again: "This compass does not point north."
"Where does it point?" Elizabeth asked, despite herself, and Jack answered honestly and sincerely: "It points to the thing you want most in this world."
Elizabeth stared into Jack's eyes, searching his gaze yet unable to keep the wonder out of her own. Annalise meanwhile frowned at Jack's admission, but before she could say anything Elizabeth whispered slowly: "Jack… Are you telling the truth?"
"Every word." He promised, before adding softly, persuasively: "And what you want most in this world…"
He took Elizabeth's hands and clasped them over his compass.
"...Is to find the chest of Davy Jones, is it not?"
Annalise's eyes narrowed, while Elizabeth added quickkly: "To save Will."
"By finding the chest of Davy Jones." Jack pressed, ignoring the look Annalise was giving him.
He opened the compass and took a step back, giving Elizabeth space; the blonde barely noticed, her gaze focused on the spinning needle and she watched intently as it suddenly came to a resolute stop. And Annalise's frown only deepened as she watched Jack peer over Elizabeth's shoulder and his eyes flashed with satisfaction for a moment before he shouted: "Mr. Gibbs!"
"Cap'n?" Gibbs answered, quickly moving to his captain's side.
"We have our heading." Jack announced, and Annalise noted the relief that broke over Gibbs's face as the first mate said: "Finally!"
He turned back to the Pearl, shouting to the crew as he hurried up the plank: "Cast off those lines, weigh anchor, and trough that canvas!"
Jack meanwhile retrieved his compass from Elizabeth before he bowed, sweeping his arm out dramatically as he said to Elizabeth: "Miss Swann."
Elizabeth couldn't quite contain her excitement, even if it was touched with a little unease, as she once again boarded the pirate ship; but Annalise held no illusions as she grabbed Jack before he could escape from her.
"What are you really after, Jack?" Annalise demanded, and he pretended to clutch his heart once again.
"You're a cruel woman, Annalise, accusing an honest man so." He said mournfully, but Annalise shot back dryly: "Even I wouldn't call you 'honest'."
Jack paused, while Annalise said, her blue eyes serious as she fixed them on Jack's: "But be honest with me now; why do you need Elizabeth to find that chest? Why couldn't you just do it yourself?"
Jack hesitated for just one moment; but that moment gave him away. And he knew instantly from the way Annalise's eyes narrowed that she wouldn't be satisfied unless she got the truth… or at least, as close to the truth as possible.
"Because, love," Annalise frowned cautiously at his use of the endearment, "there is something I want more than anything, even the chest. Something I will want most for all eternity."
"And what's that?" Annalise asked warily.
Instead of answering verbally, Jack opened the compass in his hands and held it up for Annalise to see. She watched as the needle spun for a moment before it settled… on her.
Annalise stopped breathing for a moment, her eyes widening as for a moment she dared not believe what she was seeing; and then she really didn't. Reality crashed on her as she realized Jack would never so openly declare his feelings. So she glanced back, and a scowl appeared on her pretty face as she saw the crate of rum that Jack's crew was carrying behind her at that moment.
"Oh, for-!" Annalise snapped, turning to glare at Jack who just smiled easily.
"What's the matter, love?" He asked, and Annalise said sharply: "You are the absolute worst, Jack Sparrow."
"Pirate." He shrugged, pointing to himself.
Annalise stomped off, fuming and berating herself for even thinking for a moment that Jack would be honest at least to her and then letting him manipulate those feelings for his own amusement.
Jack, meanwhile, watched her go, the easy smile falling from his face as soon as she wasn't looking.
That had been close; too close. But more unsettling was the knowledge that, in his effort to mislead Annalise through telling the truth, Jack had been forced to face the truth in himself that he had been running from for the last year. The compass had pointed, unfailingly, right at Annalise; as it had since the day after he left her behind.
And with a sinking feeling in his stomach, Jack Sparrow knew that he had been completely honest in every word he had said.
'Bloody hell.' He thought with a groan as he too walked up the gangway to his ship, after the woman he had fallen in love with… and whom he therefore had to avoid at all costs.
*A/N Merry Christmas everyone! I know it's going slowly, but hopefully this chapter will be a small treat to those who are being so kind as to be patient for me! Happy holidays, and may you all have end the year with a (good) bang!